Aug 15 1-16.indd Vol. 67 No.8 August 15, 2018 The community newspaper of the Archdiocese of Newark First Friends offers hope for the undocumented “T hey wanted to kill me,” said Alex, whose real name is being withheld. Through a translator, he described fleeing his native Honduras after he and his family were threatened by notorious MS-13 gang members. “In my country and other coun- tries in Central America, there is a lot of kidnapping, recruiting, extortion,” Alex explained. “The gangs use peo- ple, many to sell drugs. If you resist and say you don’t want to, they look for you to kill you and your family. They force you to work.” Traveling with no money, he crossed through Guatemala and Mexico. “There are many danger- ous places in Mexico. Los Zetas (a drug cartel), the gangs, they are everywhere, even on the train,” he said. “All parts of Mexico are con- trolled by the gangs. I suffered. In some parts of Mexico it was very cold. It was snowing and I didn’t have a coat.” U.S. Customs and Border Pro- tection captured Alex crossing the border in Eagle Pass, Texas. He spent 20 days in a private detention center there before being transferred to the Elizabeth Contract Deten- tion Facility where he stayed for five months. While at the detention center, he contacted First Friends of New Jersey and New York for help. The Kearny-based non-prof- it organization has volunteers visit undocumented immigrants held in local facilities and offers non-legal assistance. “I didn’t have any money for an attorney. I had to go to court alone. I have no one in this country to help me. I represented myself,” Alex stated. Through the organization, he was able to secure a lawyer and was granted a $7,500 bond. His family in Honduras managed to raise the money and he was released over a month ago. “My family is helping me get evidence for my case,” Alex said. “I have to work to pay my bond. My family got a mortgage on their home to get my bond money. My mother By Melissa McNally Editor INTERNATIONAL STUDENT PROGRAM Page 6 APPOINTMENTS Page 8 AROUND THE ARCHDIOCESE Page 13 CLASSIFIEDS Page 14 Continued on page 11 is sick. I have to figure out how I will pay for an attorney or find one who works for free. Right now, I am waiting for my next court date.” First Friends managed to find temporary housing for Alex. Al- though he was released from deten- tion, the work does not end. First Friends and many immigrant rights organizations have seen an increase in cases like Alex’s since President Donald Trump issued an executive order in January 2017. The new “zero tolerance” immi- gration policy calls for the criminal prosecution of undocumented immi- grants who have entered the country through the border. In November 2017, U.S. Immigration and Cus- toms Enforcement (ICE) reported its total average daily population for fiscal year 2017 was 39,322 people. There were 3,189 arrests in fiscal year 2017 in ICE’s Newark region, which encompasses all of New Jersey, according to data released by the agency. That is a 42 percent increase compared to the previous year. This marks the second year in a row the U.S. government hit an unprecedented high in how many immigrants it incarcerates. “Detaining immigrants is a lucrative business,” First Friends Program Director Sally Pillay said. According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, about 71 percent of the average daily population last No- vember were held in privately oper- ated jails. Local governments signed contracts with the federal govern- ment (known as Inter-Governmental Service Agreements or U.S. Marshal Service Intergovernmental Agree- ments) and then subcontracted facil- ity operations to private, for-profit companies. “It’s purely profit-driven. It costs about $120 per day to house one immigrant in a detention cen- ter,” Pillay explained. “At Hudson County jail, there are about 600 detainees. The jail makes around $72,000 every day; that is a lot of taxpayer dollars.” Detention facilities have recent- ly come under fire for inhumane conditions. In February, researchers for Human Rights First visited the three main facilities in New Jersey that ICE uses to detain non-citizens: Elizabeth Contract Detention Facil- ity, the Essex County Correction- al Facility and the Hudson County Correctional Facility. The report said inadequacies, when it comes to food, Submitted photo “Alex” traveled from his native Honduras through Mexico and was eventually detained in Elizabeth. Advocate photo-Melissa McNally Sally Pillay, left, and Kimberly Krone of First Friends